The Blog

Silencing Dissent

Something is rotten in the state of Egypt.

12:00 PM, Sep 27, 2009 • By LEE SMITH
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Mustafa, a frequent visitor to Washington during the heyday of the Bush administration's Freedom Agenda, says that the campaign against her is a reflection of the Egyptian regime's desire to keep the peace with Israel cold. "After all this time, no one can have a free discussion about what Egypt gets from its anti-normalization posture for three decades. This is ridiculous."

Egypt, after all, is supposed to be part of the moderate Arab trend, those U.S.-backed Sunni states that share a common interest with Washington and Israel in setting back the Iranian-led resistance bloc. And it is true that while Hezbollah and Hamas have warred against Israel, Tehran's allies have targeted Egypt as well; Hassan Nasrallah went so far as to invite the Egyptian masses to bring down the regime. In return, Hosni Mubarak rounded up Hezbollah cells in the Sinai, but has done nothing to confront the ideology of his enemies. Nor does it seem that President Obama has it in his power to compel him to do so. In the Middle East right now, it is the resistance that wields the predominance of soft power.

"The regime is comfortable now that Obama has dropped political reform and democracy, contrary to Bush," says Mustafa. "But the message is clear: Egypt cannot adopt normalization with Israel as part of Obama's plan."

Lee Smith is the author of 'The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations' (Doubleday), forthcoming in January.